A M Jama, a senior editor with Universal TV, conducted an exclusive, twenty-five-minute interview with the new UK Ambassador to Somalia/Somaliland, Ms Harriet Mathews.
The interview covered many areas revolving around the present Somali political environment. The nineteenth minute of the interview, however, turned, specifically on Somaliland. The section began fairly, professionally enough. But towards the end, the interviewers political leanings sprang to the open.
The Ambassador proved a more adept and steelier diplomat than the interviewer could chew.
Find a transcript of the section on Somaliland and a copy of the interview itself below.
Universal TV: When it comes to the question of unity of Somalia, what is the British stand?
Ambassador Mathews: For the UK, there will always be a soft spot for Somaliland. We have a common history and many people here spend time there and engage with Somaliland. In terms of independence, I think our position is pretty well established. It is really for the Somali people to determine what happens. We think it is really important to have a constructive dialogue and increase cooperation. .and I was really pleased to see the president’s statement that he was opening up talks with Hargeisa. That is really a positive development and something that we will be supporting.
Universal TV: About those talks taking place in Dubai, taking place in Britain, in Turkey, taking place in Djibouti ..often ends up with no fruits. The talks is one thing, but when it comes to the British government .. the argument of Somaliland is that they had peace and stability for twenty-three years, four different elections took place.. democratic elections..why don’t you recognize them if that’s their wish and since you have a soft spot for them?
Ambassador Mathews: The first thing to stress is that Somaliland has achieved a huge amount.. and you have mentioned some of those things, and I think it is an impressive achievement under the circumstances.
But it not just down to the UK to pronounce one way or the other. I think there are a lot of areas still need to be brokered on. There are areas of dispute, and there are areas of cooperation that needs to be worked out if independence was on the course.
The most important thing is not the location where the talks take in but having a process that makes progress, that builds trust and that can lead to and enact various areas of cooperation.
Universal TV: In Somaliland there are people who live in that region who do not want to be independent. They need to have a voice. Those people often accuse Somaliland of being oppressive, for not giving them an opportunity to express themselves.
Would you engage a dialogue with the authorities in Somaliland to make sure that those people are not oppressed.. for example the people of Khatumo?
Ambassador Mathews: This is exactly what I had been talking about. It is very easy to talk about Somaliland being independent, but there are issues still, including Khatumo state, which have to be worked out and resolved, as well, Khatumo including with the Federal governmet.
Universal TV: The last Parliament here was not keen to recognize Somaliland. I have interviewed William Hague, he said they were not going to recognize Somaliland, the nUK foreign/African office.
What is the situation now with David Cameron being re-elected.. I mean , the British point of view of Somalia being reunited, the North and the South.. what do you support?
Ambassador Mathews: Our position is clear. We are not going to sat Somalia is going to be united. Neither are we going to advocate for independence. This is something that needs to be worked out properly.
Right now, we are not that moment of declaration of independence. But, what the government is clear on is to support that dialogue and that cooperation.